Cranford was first serialized in Charles Dickens’ magazine Household Words between 1851 and 1853. The structureless nature of the stories, and the fact that Gaskell was busy writing her novel Ruth at the time the Cranford shorts were being published, suggests that she didn’t initially plan for Cranford to be a cohesive novel.
The short vignettes follow the activities of the society in the fictional small English country town of Cranford. Gaskell drew from her own childhood in Knutsford to imbue her settings and characters with a nostalgic quality in a time when the societies and styles portrayed were already going out of fashion.
Though not especially popular at the time of publication, Cranford has since gained an immense following, including at least three television adaptations.